November 30, 2008

The Devil's Whore

Okay, so us poor VM customers can't get to see the highlight of Channel 4's autumn season, The Devil's Whore, in glorious HD - that's only for Sky customers, but it's still great looking TV even in standard definition. Being shot with HD cameras benefits everyone...or does it? Over on the site director Marc Munden reveals that HD cameras aren't universally loved by the technicians:
"Munden shot in HD, albeit grudgingly. "I hate it. It can look great but it's just a pain. You're always linked to a monitor and the cameras are huge. I use a lot of zoom lenses and if you've got a zoom on an HD camera it's like a tank. I like to be free to pick up the camera and run with it," he says.
"Apart from the low budget BBC2 drama Shiny Shiny Bright New Hole In My Heart, it's the first time he has shot on HD. "It's a cost thing, 16mm film is much more expensive. I can be a bit out of control shooting stock and, if that does happen, it gets very expensive. On HD you're just using tape and it doesn't cost any money."
So HD is actually cheaper to shoot than film? Interesting. If it makes financial sense for productions then it definitely will be the media of the future, regardless of any qualms the creative folk may have.

November 26, 2008

Remember this?

Virgin Media lines up further HD entertainment

Virgin Media has struck a deal with Channel 4 that enables them to offer a selection of Channel 4 programming in HD via their TV on demand service.

Virgin customers can already catch up on Channel 4 shows free of charge for up to seven days post transmission, plus access a library of hundreds of hours of their best library programmes and watch the latest US dramas and comedies on a pay per view basis, via the 4oD service. Now a selection of these shows will also be available in HD format.

The deal also gives Virgin Media the option of carrying the soon-to-be-launched C4HD linear channel.

The company's on-demand library already includes HD assets from content partners including FilmFlex, the BBC and History Channel.

Malcolm Wall, Virgin Media's CEO for Content, said: “We are delighted to be adding Channel 4 content to our growing line up of high definition programming. Virgin Media is at the forefront of technology advances in television and is not only offering its customers higher quality pictures in HD, but also the ability to watch what they want when they want it via the on demand service."

“Demand for HD is increasing, and befitting our ambition for viewers to be able to access our programming when they want it and in a format of their choice, it's important for us to be meeting this demand wherever we can. We are delighted that HD versions of some of our shows will be available to Virgin TV on demand users and look forward to increasing the amount of HD programming in our schedule over time” added Sarah Rose, Head of Video on Demand and Channel Development, Channel 4.

Source: Virgin Press Release, October 2007

Of course, the C4 HD channel has still yet to appear, and C4 HD content in TV Choice On Demand has been noticeable by its absence too - a smattering of US import content at 99p per programmes for a few weeks last Autumn then nothing whatsoever.

To date the C4 high definition offering has been so weak it has been difficult to get enthusiastic about it. But over the last couple of months it has improved and will be even more desirable when C4 does its seasonal film bonanza over the Christmas season. So come on Virgin; you announced the commercial deal was completed ages ago, now give us what you promised in 2007 and let your high paying, HD-starved customers have something early this Christmas!

November 25, 2008

Christmas line up on BBC HD

More details to follow, but here's what is scheduled for BBC HD this Christmas:
  • Wallace And Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit
  • Toy Story 2
  • The Chronicles Of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean – Dead Man's Chest
  • Starter For Ten
  • Casanova
  • Brothers Grimm
  • Shrek The Halls
  • Wallace and Gromit: A Matter Of Loaf And Death
  • Doctor Who Prom
  • The 39 Steps
  • Lark Rise To Candleford
  • Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special
  • Gavin and Stacey Christmas special
  • Lead Balloon
  • The Royle Family Christmas special
  • After You've Gone Christmas special
  • Michael Palin's Around the World in 20 Years
  • Hootenanny

November 24, 2008

Survivors episode 2 and Wallander

The second episode of Survivors is showing Tuesday night at 9pm on BBC HD, and subsequent episodes of the series will also debut on Tuesday nights from hereon.
Next Sunday at 9pm on BBC HD sees the first of three episodes of the new detective drama Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh. That's more like it...

November 22, 2008

The rest of the weekend on BBC HD

Not a great weekend for new programmes on BBC HD. Here are the highlights:
Saturday 17:20–18:20 Oceans
18:20–19:25 Strictly Come Dancing
And that's it. The rest of the evening is repeats of Torchwood, the recent Ian Fleming documentary, the Barbara Cartland drama and some Electric Proms. And Sunday's not much better, with the only new stuff being:
–20:15 Antiques Roadshow and
21:00–22:30 Survivors (see previous post)

November 21, 2008

Survivors on BBC HD this weekend

There appears to be distinct lack of imagination in the casting of BBC dramas these days, and the weekend's big debut Survivors (BBC HD Sunday, 9pm) is no exception. As anyone who saw Bonekickers earlier this year will testify, Julie Graham hasn't got what it takes to lead a top drama, but here she is again, filling in for the two Amandas (Redman and Burton - presumably now a wee bit too old for the 'action' roles) in a drama that promises much but will probably deliver little. Support this time comes from Max Beasley (from the dire Hotel Babylon) and the perpetually miserable Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who and the worst thing in Little Dorritt). Hardly inspiring.
Based on Terry Nation's seventies drama series of the same name, this looks like standard sub-Spooks BBC fayre. I could be wrong of course. More details, and the trailer, can be found here.

November 19, 2008

BBC HD one year old

Was it really just a year ago that the BBC Trust confirmed BBC HD's trial status was at an end and the channel was now a fully-fleged member of the Beeb's digital offering? How time flies.
So has it been a disappointment? Some times I look at the weekly schedules for the channel and feel like things have gone backwards - there seem to be even more repeats of music programmes than ever, now coupled with snippets of old gardening footage or aerial shots from Coast to fill the schedules. But, looking deeper, there've been many great series on BBC HD in its first full year, and it would be wrong to say it has not improved. For classical drama fans we've had Cranford, Tess of the D'urbervilles, Little Dorritt and others, whilst more modern dramas have included Damages, The Company, Torchwood, Mad Men, Silent Witness and of course Heroes. Most new comedy from the Beeb these days is in HD (Gavin & Stacey, Lead Balloon and other lesser lights) whilst we've been spoiled for documentaries, including Wild China, Michael Palin's New Europe, Building Britain, Britain from Above and Around the World in 80 Gardens. And although live sport has been weaker with the loss of the England internationals and some curious quality issues with the FA Cup matches, the Olympics were stunning and Wimbledon looked better than ever.
So it hasn't been a bad first year, not by a long chalk, but it has still been something of a disappointment - the repeats are still so prevalent most evenings you almost miss the new stuff. Let's hope the second year is when things really take off. Let me know how you feel with a comment or two guys, or vote in the poll.

November 14, 2008

BBC HD highlights this weekend

20:30 -21:00 Gardeners' World
21:00 -22:00 The Barristers
1/4. Series following the work of barristers. (R)
22:30 -23:30 BBC Four Sessions: Paul Weller

17:00 -18:00 Recommended: Oceans
Sea of Cortez. 1/8. The marine experts carry out pioneering science on the 20-metre-long sperm whale.
18:05 -19:20 Strictly Come Dancing
Series 6, Round 9
22:30 -00:00 Kiss of Death
Drama which uncovers a serious crime from three different points of view.

18:15 -19:15 Little Dorrit Episodes 5 and 6
Okay, so a repeat...but it's soooooo good!
19:15 -20:15 Antiques Roadshow
22:00 -23:30 Film: Code 46
Drama set in the near future about an investigator who risks his professional career and his marriage when he finds himself irresistibly drawn to a crime's prime suspect.
Starring Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton

November 13, 2008

More catch up service on Sky1

Sky1 welcomes back Virgin Media customers with extended repeats of shows we missed whilst we were away. Here are some of the repeats they've kindly filled the schedules with so that we can enjoy those we have missed:
The Simpsons (5 back-to-back episodes, starting at 6.30)
The Simpsons (5 more, again at 6.30)
The Simpsons (3 episodes including ONE NEW ONE!!)
The Simpsons (4 episodes)
The Simpsons (3 episodes)
The Simpsons (5 episodes)
repeat ad nauseum
oh, hang on ... that's the regular line up ...

Apparitions on BBC HD

New for Thursdays on BBC HD at 9pm: Apparitions. Martin Shaw stars in this new six-part drama. As they say in all good movie trailers; "in a world of possession and satanic conspiracy..." Sounds interesting.

November 12, 2008

Key slide in the presentation

New Filmflex and search interface

Previewed in the presentation to investors on Nov 11th.

Oceans in HD

BBC2's new documentary series Oceans kicks off tonight, but if you're happy to wait a few days it's showing on BBC HD on Saturdays at 5pm - looks like it will be well worth the wait. See the trailer here.

November 09, 2008

Sky1 catch up programming begins

Those Virgin Media customers looking to catch up with the series they've missed whilst Sky1 has been away will be pleased to hear that Sky 2 will be screening extensive repeats of a number of series, starting November 16th.
Prison Break: from Sunday 23rd November and every day that week at 23:00 on Sky2.
24: Day 6: With the premiere of "24: Redemption" on Sky1 on Monday 24th November at 22:00, Sky2 are offering 24: Day 6 the entire series on Saturday 23rd November.
Stargate Atlantis: The first 15 episodes of series 5
They also repeating episodes of JJ Abrams new series Fringe, which I've seen and can recommend. Starting Sunday 16th November, and continuing the rest of that week, at 23:00 on Sky2.
No word yet on seasons 4 of Lost or Battlestar, but they're not due back with new series until the new year so they hopefully will follow.

November 08, 2008

More behind the scenes info from BBC HD

Those who want to know more about the technical aspects of high definition will be delighted to see that our favourite BBC HD blogger, Andy Quested, has another informative post up over on the BBC HD Blog here. Always candid in his comments and very open about the challenges the BBC HD team are facing, it's a highly recommended read.

Remembrance programming on BBC HD

There are a number of special broadcasts on BBC HD this weekend:
Saturday, 9.05pm

November 07, 2008

Virgin comment on the lack of HD with the return of Sky channels UPDATED

Over on the always-interesting TechRadar site, there's short piece on the lack of HD services in the Sky deal. Full post here. Here's what a Virgin spokesperson has said on the matter:

"We are in on-going discussion with a number of broadcasters with regards to new SD and HD channels."

"With increasing consumer interest in High Definition content, we are actively pursuing rights to HD programmes for our leading video on demand service and have already made a wide range of programmes available."

"We will continue to look for opportunities to add more great HD programmes as they become available, as well as working with content providers, such as the BBC, to provide HD programmes within the popular iPlayer service."

Some recognition there that there's a growing demand for HD but the same old story regarding a focus on VoD content rather than HD channels. Ho hum

UPDATE (for those who don't read the Comments):
Over on Cable Forums, Media Boy (often the first with news and he has several contacts at VM) has posted:
BSkyB and Virgin Media in talks over HD Channels
I have been told that Virgin Media and Sky are still in talks over Sky's HD Channels.
Virgin hope to have the deal signed by Christmas 2008 and Virgin Media may get the rights to carry up to 15 HD Channels.

Berkett speaks...

...but nothing about HD services. The Guardian gives Mr Berkett a pretty easy ride in a full interview here.

November 06, 2008

Virgin Media's results Q308

Nothing really worthy of much excitement in the latest quarter's results from VM, announced today. Numbers are up on TV but nothing sensational (up 38k on the previous quarter), ditto on the V+ (see graph) and the usual investor-friendly numbers and spin. Full presentation here for those interested.
But again, no mention whatsoever of High Definition services. Yes, Video On Demand. Yes, the return of the Sky Basics is proudly plugged. But again, the somewhat slow penetration of the V+ is seen as "an opportunity for further growth" without any real analysis as to why it's not setting the world on fire. Lack of HD perhaps? Surely not...

November 03, 2008

Sky HD take up accelerates

The third quarter's results announced by Sky last week include some impressive growth on the HD front; up by 93,000 (almost 20%) to a total of 591,000. This may be put down to Sky dropping the one-off price of the box itself and partly explained by the attraction of the expanded HD channel line up, but either way it's a hugely impressive performance after the previous quarter's more modest gains.
If Sky HD sustains this growth through the final 2008 quarter (normally the best results of the year for both Sky and Virgin Media) then I think we'll have seen proof that a proper HD line up is no longer a niche specialist interest for the first adopter crowd but an essential pay TV service offering for the larger market.
Virgin Media's latest figures are published on Thursday. It'll be interesting to compare them with Sky's fine quarter.